By Ahmed Ali Salim
You know it is to arrive, you can smell its eerie stench long before it appears in its overcoat.
The first time it touched me, it was more like a prick a soft needle touching me, it wasn’t
necessarily pain. To claim that it was pain was a long shot. I knew I was bleeding I cold feel
the red liquid seep out of me. I felt a strange feeling that could not be pushed into the
houses of pain or happiness rather it was something that stood on the porch of the house of
pain and longed for the lobbies of happiness. I did not seek anyone I just tended to it, to the
small wound a dot of sort left by that prick.
I thought how stupid the world was how it glorified something that was nothing more than a
speck. These wine drunk poets had glorified it, they had created mountains of something
that in truth did not even exist I smiled I rubbed it and smiled again at those that had lived
before me and had fooled the whole world they had created barrages of books in which they
ranted about a feeling that was just a prick, I thought I should write about it too, write how it
stings how brutal the winter wind was on it but I could not pull the chords of words so I
washed the wound and went on with my usual works through the lobbies of happiness into
the porch of sadness planting maple seeds all along.
I thought we would never meet again, but I was wrong.
Decluttering my desk, I came across an old sun kissed picture, it was amusing at first how I
had forgotten how she looked, I had forgotten how the sun danced in her eyes, eyes that
had once held me captive eyes that could fill words in a dreadful silence. Eyes that were no
more mine. Oh, it was this thought this bare raw thought that had caused an encounter, this
time it did not came with a small needle oh no, it had arrived with a dagger. A cold dagger
that had been forged by the winds of winter.
I felt the cold metal blade piercing through my stomach, I could feel the knots the insides of
my gut convoluting I tried to stay up on my feet but I failed; I fell on the ground my legs
tucked inside, trying to undo what her eyes had done to me but it was late. The dagger had
torn every inch of my gut lacerated my bowels blood pooled inside my stomach and this time
I felt the true grip of pain. I felt the hanging threads of bleeding veins I shouted for help, I
punched the emergency numbers but no one came, I was left on the line ‘Assistance will be
provided wait for you chance’ chimed a voice. I waited for my chance while others that faced
the same were being treated.
I thought I would bleed and die but miraculously my lacerations were healed, some knots
were untangled some remained, I could finally eat again, drinking water was no more the
sole victory of my day soon I could stand again and the wind of life once again blew on my
door and I was swept into the crowd doing what everyone else did
But one day when I was coming back from work, I wandered into the wrong side of the town
although it was just five streets away from my house but it was a place I should not have
walked into. The lake was still, just as it was the day before I was pricked. I remembered
how her blue sundress swayed on her hips how she sat on that brown bench waiting for me
waiting for that inevitable event.
I closed my eyes and perhaps that was my biggest error, I heard the gun shot I knew the
door from which those round ancient muskets were fired. I had stood on the doorsteps of it I
had kissed her there I had tucked the stray strands of her hairs I had smiled at her
nervousness I had said something clever before leaning into her. I remembered how those
soft lips felt and at that moment the muskets of the past punctured through my heart I was
thrown back flat onto the ground the sky swirling above me the ground engulfing me. That
was the kind of pain that I could never find the right words for. No matter how many
languages I learn no matter what poetry I read there could not be a right phrase that could
explain the spike the burst of intensity that I felt when the muskets tore through my heart.
Soon there was blackness. I did not even know how long I had been knocked out but when I
woke up, I was still on the street flat on my back with an ache in every piece of flesh that I
I tried to move but oh the pain, the pain, the pain, the pain I clenched my teeth tried to
breathe through it but it felt as if my lungs would soon give up on me. Every little shiver that
the cold weather extorted form me felt brutal. My heart felt like an empty metal can in which
coins had been deliberately left. Every shake every little move forced them onto the wall and
my breath crumbled that metallic feeling made the old pain of the dagger spike up again.
For days I lay there on the street with no passer-by but a dog; a beagle which licked my
wound smelled my hairs snarled sometimes then wagged his tail. But never barked, I wanted
to pet him but whenever I tried to move the metal can with its coins caused such pain that it
would shake my bones. I hoped that someday the dog will come hungry to me and would put
me out of my misery, he should do that after all he was a domesticated animal he should
show some signs of humanity, he should have eaten me but I guess he had always been a
wild dog therefore he sat by me wagging his tail until I recovered, a journey that was nothing
like the one from the dagger wound oh no this time it was a slow process my heart first had
to accept that those muskets were now a part of them, it had to grow new tissue over it and
claim the metal as body, which it bravely did. Then slowly it sent signals to all the organs that
now was the time to stand up and perhaps go home.
Soon I was back on the street although it was difficult to walk the first few days but soon, I
relearned to do something that I was taught years ago, I could walk again with such poise
that was unlike me. Soon the usual work began again the same old crowd the same old
maple seeds the musket remained in my heart some days it ached a dull chest pain so to
ease it I walk to the lake and stand there perhaps the musket misses its roots and longs to
be in the shadow of its true home, so to put it out of its misery I sometimes walk by the front
door from where they were shot it feels nice a soothing pain a pain which feels like standing
on the porch of the house of sadness and longing for the lobbies of happiness.
But when I had accepted and credited myself for a life changing journey it arrived again,
when I had thought that I had faced the most brutal schemes of nature it surprised me with
On a Sunday morning when I was strolling down a random street the world reminded me
how small it really could be, she walked by, I looked at her I recognised her and I wished she
did not but she did she smiled the same smile that she had when I said to her that a clan of
elves lives in the core of this earth and forces people of love, towards each other. She asked
me how I was, she shook my hand told me about her new hair cut which made her look
stunning I of course could not form words to tell her that before leaving she placed her hand
on my chest and with the same smile said to me may you enjoy the journey and left.
I felt nothing for a while but then a maple leaf slowly fell in front me dancing on the winds of
pain it placed itself on my feet, that was the moment when my ribs crashed the effect of her
hand on the cage that was to protect my heart became prominent. This pain was a barbaric
punishment after everything I had been through this was not fair, I said but it did not make it
stop it amplified it the ringing sound of her voice took over my head. I crashed onto the
ground this time the skies did swirl nor the ground engulfed me no this time it was pure
darkness, my own bones had pierced my heart her tiny fingers had crushed them into million
pieces which travelled through my body puncturing every vital organ that I had. A piece of it
reached my brain and forced it to release the poison that the first needle had pricked into my
Images of her flowing hair of her quiet smile of her giggling of that night when moon visited
us merged into a collage and painted the dark canvass with a light that blinded me.
Now I knew why poets of ancient days said that life before it leaves a body forces the gears
of brain to project images which we thought had been burned by our wit.
I would have embraced death even if I could not see its face in this darkness, I would have
told it that it was beautiful but sadly I lived.
Of course I think that now pain will never meet me again, but I have lived with it enough to
know that I can surely not control it, maybe we will meet again maybe it will be more brutal or
maybe it will be just another prick, that I don’t care what I have learned is that pain is the
most misunderstood entity in the world we think that pain kills the person no, pain changes
people yes but never kills it can not kill that is the curse it has, a curse to crumble a human
being into torn ball of paper yet not kill strange right but then remember the dog should have
eaten me but it sat and wagged its tail on my misery.
By Ahmed Ali Salim